Sitting in the dining area of Villa Teresa Convent, Becky Roberson examined several vintage picture albums and memory books before she found one of her childhood drawings. Grinning, Roberson, 39, said she attended Villa Teresa School from 1978 through 1983 and met her best friend Jenni Touhey-McCreery there.
“With the school closing we wanted to see it again,” Touhey-McCreery, 38, said. “It's been a long time.”
Roberson said she particularly remembered the summers at the school and the swimming lessons she and her friend enjoyed.
“It was such a great school. I hated seeing it close, because there are so few small schools like that anymore,” she said.
Michaela Harding reunited with Sister Marcianne Kappes, her first-grade teacher. Harding, 41, of Oklahoma City, said she attended Villa Teresa from preschool through first grade. She said she still has the rosary Kappes gave her. Harding said she searched for her first-grade class picture and had all but given up, but the night before the June 8 alumni event, she found it and brought it with her.
‘A special experience'
Doug Rixmann, of Newalla, brought his wife, Christy, and sons Zachary, 11, and Nathan, 8, to visit the school he attended from 1971 through 1975. He looked through numerous vintage photo albums and reminisced about going to the school with his brother and sister and being welcomed by the Catholic nuns even though their family was Episcopalian.
Rixmann, 47, he said he was grateful because his family, like some others, received a special rate for him and his siblings to attend the school because they could not have afforded it otherwise.
“It was a very, very special experience,” Rixmann said. “I can't say enough about the sisters. They were very good to us.”
Leslye Pratt, 67, of Oklahoma City, said her children and granddaughter attended Villa Teresa. She and her daughter Katie Brown, 35, and Brown's daughter Mali Smith, 12, visited with Sister Veronica Higgins, the school's beloved principal, to catch up on each others' lives.
“We spent a lot of our lives here,” Pratt said. “It was really hard when the kids left here, because it was like leaving home.”
Brown said she remembered the nuns being the “best teachers ever,” and she marveled that she and her daughter both had Higgins and another sister as teachers — a generation apart. She said she especially remembered reading amid fluffy pillows in a vintage bathtub one of the sisters had in her classroom.
Brown said she also remembered several sisters sewing Barbie doll clothes for the students while they napped or swam in the school's pool during the summer.
“Is that not the cutest thing?” she said, laughing.
Former Villa Teresa student Linda Anne Huffman Zablatnik, of Oklahoma City, said she attended the school in the 1930s until she was 11 years old. She said was thrilled when Sister Elizabeth Ann Koberstein, 82, recognized her when she recently walked through the door of the convent adjacent to the school.
“The sister at the door saw me and she said, ‘Linda Anne Huffmann!' Can you believe that?!” Huffman said, laughing.
Kathaline Weigl, 95, of Oklahoma City, also visited for a time with Koberstein. She said her son and grandsons attended the school and her husband tried to help the nuns in any way they could.
“I couldn't miss this. They told me I had to be here,” she said, smiling.
During the gathering, Sister Marcianne Kappes and Barbara Hallauer, of Moore, ducked into the convent's library to look over doll clothes and doll houses created by Kappes and several of her friends.
Kappes said she crocheted Barbie doll clothes for girls attending Villa Teresa, often as an incentive for good behavior.
She said she still creates the clothing with the help of several friends, only now the clothes are sold to provide funds for a homeless ministry in the Shawnee area.
Hallauer said her grandchildren attended Villa Teresa, and she has been buying the doll clothes from Kappes for several years.
Kappes said she was always known as a teacher with a sense of humor. She said she often entertained her students with her puppets and even by placing iguanas on her shoulder as she read aloud in the classroom.
“I had no problems keeping their attention,” she said, grinning.
Andrea Hall and her daughter Morgan Hall, 15, toured through the school both attended over the years. Hall, 43, of Oklahoma City, said she was a Villa Teresa student from 1973 to 1979, her son attended the school from 1992 to 1996, and her daughter was a student there from 2000 to 2003.
“Villa Teresa was the most enjoyable experience of our lives, so it's a family tradition,” Andrea Hall said. “Just walking through the hall is like walking down memory lane.”
Faith Lewis ate lunch with Sister Sylvia Negrete on the outdoor patio area between the Villa Teresa Convent and Villa Teresa School buildings.
Lewis, 14, said she attended the school from first through fourth grade, and her mother was the school's secretary for a time.
Negrete, 70, smiled as she said she is the teen's godmother.
“This has been very memorable. I saw students that I taught in preschool and second grade,” Negrete said. “To see them as moms — and they also have their careers, too — I never imagined that.”
She said she will soon celebrate her 50th anniversary as a sister.